Google LLC and Alphabet Inc. (Google) moved to dismiss a third successive complaint that alleged it tied the sales of Maps, Routes and Places application programming interface (API) services to one another. A basic tying claim involves a seller leveraging its market power in one product (the “tying” product) to force sales and gain market share over a different product (the “tied” product).
Following the dismissal of an initial complaint filed in 2022, the plaintiffs filed an amended complaint alleging Google created a “three-way” tying arrangement by conditioning the sale of one API service (e.g., Maps) on the required purchase of the two other services (e.g., Routes and Places) through its contractual terms of service.
The plaintiffs alleged that the tying product could be any of the three APIs and that Google had market power in all three. Whichever plaintiffs bought first was the tying product, and the other two were tied products – allegedly locked in by forced sale or prohibition on use of competitor APIs as a condition of the first sale.
The court granted Google’s motion to dismiss because the plaintiffs did not explain how a product could be both a tying product (requiring market power) and the tied product (lacking market power) depending simply on the order of the sales.
In their second amended complaint, the plaintiffs abandoned the three-way tying claim, instead bringing a basic tying claim with Maps as the tying product and Routes and Places as the tied products. Google has again moved to dismiss the complaint.
- Maps, Routes and Places APIs are interrelated but separately licensed services that appear alongside each other in mapping applications like Google Maps.
- In response to the first amended complaint, Google argued that the plaintiffs did not explain how a product could be both a tying and a tied product depending on the order of sale, given the inherent conflicts in market power required of each.
- The US Department of Justice Antitrust Division (DOJ) intervened, filing a Statement of Interest urging the court to reject Google’s interpretation of Sambreel as establishing an “unqualified right” over the use and display of its services. The DOJ did not take a position on whether the claim should survive otherwise.
- The court agreed with the DOJ, holding that Google’s interpretation of “control” is too broad and could justify any tying arrangement as an exercise of a supplier’s right to determine or dictate the terms on which its product or service was used.
- The court also found that the plaintiffs failed to explain how a product could be either a tying [...]